Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Adding a bit of shadow to a pencil drawing of Jackie Robinson, Tyrone Lott, 28, of McClellanville, is excited about his future. He plans to go to college and pursue a life that includes art.
Eight years ago, his future was dim.
Arrested, charged and convicted of armed robbery, Lott faced 10 years in prison and what came after that was unknown but not promising.
Fortunately for him, he was incarcerated in South Carolina – Manning Correctional Institute – and, because he stayed out of trouble, incurred no additional charges or discipline, he was eligible to apply to come to Georgetown County Detention Center after having served a third of his sentence.
Because this is where Sheriff A. Lane Cribb started his reentry program in 2007. The program goes above and beyond a GED and a few vocational classes.
With stringent behavioral guidelines, the program not only educates, it trains, teachers life skills, assists with post incarceration job interviews/attainment, housing and follow up for a year after release.
Recently, art was added to the list of skill trainings that include HVAC, auto body, electrical, barbering and carpentry…skills that might be expected in a vocational training program.
“We had two participants,” says program director Debbie Barr, “who are very talented and very interested in pursing art [after release].”
Lott was one of them.
So how does an “armed robber” become an artist?
Lott grew up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, N.Y., and managed to stay out of trouble, he says. Then he came to South Carolina to be with his dad in McClellanville.
“I was young, immature, and didn’t have any guidance,” he said by way of explanation for his turnabout to crime.
And then he saw someone drawing.
“I saw someone doing it [drawing] and it grabbed me,” he says. “I thought, ‘I could do that’ so I asked my family for supplies.”
His family sent the materials and, in 2009, he began changing his life.
By the following year he was constantly drawing, he says.
Fortunately for Lott, Barr knows her program participants and cares deeply about them. So she began an art program within the reentry program.
“I work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” said Lott, “I get back here by 4 and I draw.”
Except for Mondays and Thursdays when he has classes.
“I mostly work in graphite but I just started with acrylics.”
“The look on his face when I brought the acrylics,” smiles Christine Cribb, resource development director for Habitat for Humanity Georgetown County.
Lott’s art was known in law enforcement circles. He had drawn a portrait of the sheriff, which hangs in the Sheriff’s office.
Cribb asked Lott if he would be interested in creating the art that would be used as the official artwork for the annual Pawleys Pavilion Reunion…Habitat’s biggest fundraiser.
“I thought if I do it, not only will I be doing something for someone but just knowing I’d contribute to something big…,” Lott tries to explain, shrugging his shoulders.
So Barr took him to Pawleys Island Nature Park where he took a photo of the gazebo to use for the logo.
“I painted it in acrylic…my first time using acrylics,” Lott said.
His work is featured on T-shirts and posters.
“Every other year,” notes Cribb, “we have used well-known, noted artists. This is very, very special for us.”
Lott is like a kid in a candy store when it comes to his future.
There is so much I want to learn, he said.
His “day job” through the program is landscaping. He figures once he is out “in 30 months” he will find employment with a landscaping company.
But he wants to learn. He would like to learn landscaping design, not just how to cut grass and hedges. He would like to learn about “architectural design, graphics, photography, using other mediums such as watercolors, oils, pastels, web design, fine arts”…anything in which he can use his artist’s eye.
He just needs a teacher/mentor for each of those desires.
Barr says she is trying to find mentors not only to teach, but to help he two artists develop portfolios.
“It is difficult to find men who will volunteer to teach,” said Barr, clearly frustrated. “Women always seem to say ‘yes’ but not so much men.”
“I want to go to art school,” adds Lott quietly.
In fact everything Lott says is quietly and unassumingly. He is a gentle soul, deferential and polite. Somewhat of an oxymoron to his violent crime that landed him here.
Now, he said, “I feel at ease.”
Barr thinks it’s his discovery of art and that art has given him a direction for his future.
“He is very spiritual,” said Barr, “and very humble.”
Lott hopes to be able to go to the reunion and when asked, Sheriff Cribb responded “yes.”
Cribb and Barr want those attending to meet the artist and see what the program does.
Lott just wants to see the results of his work.
The Pawleys Pavilion Reunon is Saturday from 6 to 11 p.m. at Pawleys Nature Park, N. Causeway, Pawleys Island. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the event. For information call 843-546-5685.
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